Spring is just around the corner. This year it seems like winter and spring have been taking turns in our neighborhood weekly. The temperature has gone from below freezing to close to 50F and back down again every week. Our tulips have started to push themselves above ground. I wish they wouldn’t do that. There is at least a month and a half of winter weather left and if Mother Nature remains angry at us, it may snow in April.
As unpredictable as the weather has been, there are spring flowers that wouldn’t mind a little cold and some snow on the ground. The Snowdrop is one. I have only a clump of them in the garden since they don’t have a great variety of colors, just white and green. The other is crocus. They come in many shades and colors. It’s a lovely site to see when growing en-mass in a variety of colors.
To get a natural effect, I purchased around 200 mixed crocus bulbs and cast them on the lawn. Then I planted them wherever they landed. The second year, I added the expensive and larger flower types and over 100 more mixed bulbs. Too many? No. The first 200 I put in, maybe only half were able to evade squirrels and chipmunks. We could see a lot of pockmarks on the lawn from them digging up the bulbs. Even when the bulbs have already sprout little leaves and flowers, they still dug them up eating the bulb on the bottom. I made a mental note of any empty patches in spring so I can cast more bulbs in autumn.
What the critters missed provides a beautiful effect on our empty, brown lawn in early spring. They also provide an early food source for pollinators. Then they just disappear as the grass takes over.
Here are some colors you can find on the market:
They are easy to grow and each bulb will become a larger clump in just a few years, provided they are not eaten. They need no extra attention, we feed them at the same time we feed our lawn. We also leave our grass clippings on the lawn as mulch for crocus and grass.
To extend a growing season and add some color in autumn when most of the flowers are fading, plant fall crocus. This type will come up and flower in autumn for you and the pollinators to enjoy.
It’s still very cold here and I cannot do much in the garden aside from filling bird feeders and changing water in the birdbaths. But there are a lot of activities with regard to gardening in the house. The plant catalogs are piling up as well as weekly if not daily email from companies I have ordered from in the past. New issues of garden magazines provide suggestions for new plants on the market. Winter is a time for compiling information and planning for the coming season. I don’t mind spending money on the garden although reckless spending was never my habit, so I spend the winter down-time outside immersed in:
Price comparison on plants that I want to add in spring.
Research on plants suite for area need to be redone: dry and sunny, moist shade, dry shade, boggy, sandy area…
Research on plant habit and propagation: height, width, bloom time, pollinators-friendly, self-sown, invasive, pruning time…
New vegetables in the market and what they are good for.
New diseases and insects to look out for in the area
These are just some of the winter chores I do. I find myself looking for late winter-early spring flowering plants more often around this time. Maybe it’s just a longing to see colors back in the garden.
One of the late winter-early spring flowers I fell in love with are Hellebores. Their leaves are almost evergreen and they even bloom before the daffodils. It very effectively self-sows yet never becomes invasive, so I keep looking to add new colors to our garden every year. One plant per color and patience to let it grow is enough. Within a couple of years this one plant will become a patch or a colony if I let it set seeds.
I don’t remember the names of the earlier Hellebores I planted. I forgot to note the names down and there are so many colors and patterns out there that I can’t really use mere descriptions to identify mine. With the new batch, I keep name tags and note on color and location down. Below are some of them, forgive me for the unidentifiable ones. I’m open to any suggestions for identifying the unnamed flowers.
I love them in part because there are so many colorful choices of Hellebores to select from and they also come in single and double layers petals. They are winter hardy, no fuss for drought either. They can be grown in semi-shade. Since they are a low grower, I grow them under the trees, by a rose trellis and along a shady path. They are not invasive. They produce seedlings but the seedlings may not be true to the parents especially when I grow a variety of them close to one another. That’s the fun part of it; I’ll never know what the flowers from any seedling will look like until it blossoms. Pollinators love them; they are a good food source for early spring when other flowers have yet to blossom. If you want to reproduce the ‘exact’ color as the original plant was, you can do it only by division. Dig the plant you want to propagate up and separate an individual from the clump, then replant it.
Last year, I added ‘Onyx Odyssey’ to the garden. As the name suggests, the flower is black. I can hardly wait to see it bloom. I’ll keep you posted.
I see the spring light at the end of the tunnel, a little dim but still a cheerful light of hope. Snow still covers the majority of the garden but in the bare specks there are colors. Crocuses in the front yard bloomed nicely this year. Last year they became deer food. At least deer left the bulbs alone so they came up with a variety of colors. We planted a lot of crocuses in the previous two autumns to provide early spring food for our honeybees. Many of them became food for squirrels, chipmunks, deer and rabbits but the survivors continue to come up in spring before disappearing underground again.
Our back yard is still covered with snow but it’s melting fast with high daytime temperatures. Some tulips and daffodils braved the cold pushing themselves up above it.
And, look at the busy girls. Yes, we call them girls because the worker bees are all female and they’re like our children. The weather is warm enough for them to go out foraging and most of them came back with baskets full of pollen. They’ve also taken in water from the birdbaths.
Spring is here after all. Thank you Mother Nature for giving us a break from the Nor’easter in the last few weeks.
We have a few days off for Thanksgiving and have spent most of our time grinding up leaves for mulch, fixing the deer fence to make sure there is no breach and planting crocuses and tulips. Autumn is the time to put in spring crocus bulbs. We put a couple of hundred bulbs in a year ago and love the way our lawn looks in spring. This autumn we put 400 more bulbs in. I don’t really like growing anything ‘bulb’ because most of the time they become squirrel and chipmunk food. However, taking our honeybees into consideration, I want to provide natural, early spring food for them. Crocus is one of the flowers that bloom very early and have plenty of pollen and nectar. They are also quite pretty and come in variety of colors. They will disappear underground by the time other flowers start to bloom.
I run out of space to put a lot of bulbs in so our lawn is the only place. In order to make them look natural, I bought mostly mixed color bulbs. I also bought individual colors of the larger variety and mixed them with the smaller ones. Cast them on the lawn then planted them wherever they landed. Last spring they came up before the lawn grew, creating a lovely natural effect. Multi colors of crocus bloomed randomly in early April. Unfortunately we lost all our hives last winter so the native bees had a great time.
Here’s a selection of spring crocus..
I’m missing a couple of colors, either the bulbs rotted or they became our furry friends food. We can hardly wait to see what our lawn will look like next spring.
When crocuses and daffodils start to fade, primroses take the baton and continue running, coloring our garden. I’ve been planting different colors of primrose in our garden for the last few years and continue to look for new colors every year. There are many types of primrose but not many are hardy enough for our USDA zone so my choice is a little limited.
What I like about primrose is that they are pretty and low maintenance. Once I put one in the garden they tend to thrive being fed only once a year, in spring, and with a little mulching. The only potentially deadly problem for primrose, at least in our garden, are the slugs. Since they are low to the ground and tend to like moist soil, it’s easy to reach for the slugs. They can make a clump of primrose disappear in a few days.
The orange and purple striped ones were devoured by the slugs. The green one is still budding, not yet open and we’re hoping the slugs miss it too. For a couple of weeks or so, we have a very welcome primrose color all over our garden.
After months of bone chilling cold and several feet of snow, Mother nature finally eased her grip. The temperature has been increasing slowly and the spring rain has arrived. It’s been raining on and off since yesterday, with intermittent drizzle. When it was just drizzling, I took the opportunity to walk around looking for both survivors and a new generation in the garden. The deer and rabbits have done a lot of damage this winter. I guess hunger made them try anything they can get their teeth on. Yew hedge, rhododendron, iris, hydrangea, clematis, and tree peony bore the signs of being munched on.
There are also new flowering plants that have pushed themselves above ground. Tulips, hyacinth and daffodils I rescued from the garbage bin have never failed to express their gratitude year after year. Not many tulips left though. The chipmunks managed to dig a lot of them up last year even after they had started to flower. Snowdrops have already bloomed. Grape Hyacinth and Dwarf iris will follow close behind.
A new cycle begins again. I can hardly wait for a dry sunny day when I can begin pruning roses, feeding the plants, cleaning up the garden in general, and putting new seeds in the ground.
The Alyssum ‘Basket of Gold’ (Aurinia saxatilis) is a perennial that produces bright yellow flowers. Butterflies and bees love them. This particular one was buried under a mound of snow this winter but it’s happy and perky again.
I will have to cage these tulips before the chipmunks find them. I have no idea what this one is but the pattern on the leaf is beautiful and the resulting flower will be so vibrant.
When spring weather has not stabilized and frost is not yet out of the picture, not many plants are well equipped to deal with left-over extremes. Primrose (Primula) is one of the early spring flowers that can deal with a wider than normal range of temperatures. Recently the temperatures locally have been around 60° to 75°F during the day, dropping to below 40°F overnight. These little plants are thriving even though some of them started as little more than a root. Deer found them tasty this last winter; chewing them right down to a stump. Some were pulled from the ground but still hung on until I found them and poked them back in the ground.
Their blooming also lasts a long time. This spring has been good for the primrose since it’s still too cold for the slugs who come out at night, so the leaves and petals are still intact.